In Buffalo, New York, on July 17, 1902, a young man of 26, Willis Carrier laid the foundation of modern air conditioners by solving a problem for his client Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company of Brooklyn, New York. He designed an air conditioner in response to an issue with absorbance due to high humidity caused colors on paper to run when printing, which degraded image quality. Instead of modern refrigerants, Willis Carriers used water to remove heat and humidity out of the factory.
Principals of an Air Conditioner
The reasons why we love ACs are pretty clear, but it's good to remind why they were invented in the first place. An air conditioner should have these four principles to fulfill its purpose.
- Control temperature
- Control humidity
- Control air circulation and ventilation
- Cleanse the air
The main function of an air conditioner is to control the temperature in a room or building. This is accomplished by removing heat from the air using a refrigerant cycle and controlling the flow of air through the system.
An AC unit controls humidity by cooling the air and by removing water vapor from the air. When the AC unit cools the air, the water vapor will condense and be removed from the air.
The AC unit can control the flow of air by regulating the speed of the fan or by opening and closing vents to direct the airflow. This freshens the air and moves the humidity to another place from the blown area.
The AC unit can remove particles from the air by filtering the circulated air through a filter. This can remove dust, pollen, and other debris from the air.
Air Conditioner Parts
The modern air conditioner is a relatively simple machine but consists of a few vital parts. Even if one goes out of order, the whole AC may not work as intended. From our overview picture, you can see that the main parts of an air conditioner are,
- Refrigerant: Refrigerant is a chemical that changes from liquid to gas and back in a closed system. It absorbs and releases heat as it cycles through the air conditioner, cooling the air.
- Compressor: This is where the refrigerant gas is compressed and turned into a hot vapor.
- Condenser: Cools and condenses the refrigerant gas back to a liquid state.
- Evaporator: Circulates refrigerant and removes heat from the room.
- Expansion valve (electronic): Limits the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator. Cools down the warm refrigerant. Also measures the outgoing refrigerant and is used to regulate the thermostat.
- Reversing valve (if AC also heats): Turns on and off to direct the flow of refrigerant depending on whether the AC is cooling or heating.
- Blower: Blows cool air inside the house.
- Filter: Removes dust and debris from the air.
- Fan: Cools down the refrigerant in the condenser.
- Drain pipe: Removes the condensation from the air conditioner. Condensation happens when a cold evaporator coil meets warm air.
How an AC Works?
The main components of an AC unit are essential to its function, and understanding how they work together helps us better understand how the machine works overall.
While modern air conditioners can seem like complicated, high-tech machines, their basic design and operation are actually quite simple. At its core, an AC unit is made up of four key components: a refrigerant, a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator.
The refrigerant is the key to the AC's ability to cool or heat an area. This chemical substance absorbs and releases heat as it moves through the system, absorbing heat from the air inside a room or building and releasing it outside. This cycle of heating and cooling is controlled by the compressor, which turns the refrigerant into a hot vapor.
The condenser is where this hot vapor is cooled back down to a liquid state. The evaporator then circulates the cold refrigerant through vents in the room or building, absorbing heat from the air inside and releasing it outside. Any excess moisture in the air is also removed by the evaporator, leaving behind clean, cool air.
Beyond these basic components, many modern AC units also include various advanced features such as filters to remove dust and other particles from the air, fans to cool down the refrigerant in the condenser and increase airflow through the system, and reversing valves that allow the unit to switch between heating and cooling modes. Overall, the AC unit is an incredibly effective and versatile machine for controlling the temperature and humidity inside your home or building.